BlackBerry Passport smart phone focuses squarely on business users

BlackBerry hopes to reshape smart-phone design with its new Passport, a square-shaped phone meant for business users. We haven’t had our hands on the Passport yet, but the specs are interesting.

The BlackBerry Passport's 4.5-inch 1440x1440-pixel (453 dots per inch) HD display is sharp in terms of resolution, though its square shape is clearly aimed at work-related documents and tasks rather than wide-screen entertainment. The new keyboard takes its job seriously as well, blending three rows of physical keys, with a virtual row of keys just above them.

The physical keyboard is touch-sensitive, so it can function as a trackpad for the cursor. You can scroll down webpages, change functions, and more, by gently flicking or sliding a finger over the keys. The virtual row of keys, which you can expand by swiping down on the physical keyboard, can change according to the app you’re using. And the next-word predictive-text app suggests words based on what you’ve already typed.

“Crackberry” addicts will appreciate the physical keyboard, which has the same look and feel as those on BlackBerry phones of the past. But, of course, that means committing the thumbs from both hands to type even quick notes.

Of course, some people may will find one-handed operation with this wide-bodied phone, which measures 5.04 x 3.56 x 0.37 inches, impractical under most circumstances.

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This BlackBerry runs the company’s latest OS, BlackBerry 10.3. Its BlackBerry Blend software promises to sync messages, documents, and other content on BlackBerry smart phones with other devices you may own, so that you can easily pick up where you left off as you move from one device to another.

BlackBerry says the Passport will give you lots of time to explores these features and more without interruption: It says the battery can deliver up to 30 hours of talk time on a single charge.

Prospective customers may want to think twice about investing in BlackBerry hardware, however. The company, whose smart phone market share has plummeted, has introduced only three phones in the past year. The Z10 and Q10, currently in our smart phone Ratings, were were middling performers, and the Z30 phablet, which the company introduced last November, has already been yanked off the market. And support from third-party app developers is lacking for this platform.

—Mike Gikas

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